Health Center Confronts Deep Debts
by Hernando Diosa/ La Voz Hispana | Jul 9, 2012 11:01 am
Posted to: Health, Fair Haven
This story originally appeared in La Voz Hispana. It was translated from Spanish into English by Nicolás Medina Mora Pérez.
Rumors have been flying about the financial condition of the Fair Haven Community Health Center. These allegations led us to contact the clinic’s executive director, Katrina Clark (at left in file photo), who has run the institution since 1973. She addressed the questions in the following interview.
INTERVIEWER: People are saying that the Community Health Center is not paying the taxes it deducts from employees, and that it owes the federal government over a million dollars. What can you say about this?
CLARK: To be honest with you, we are in fact having financial challenges—but in this day and age so are most health centers. We have also had a large increase in uninsured patients. And it is true that three or four years ago we had trouble paying some of those taxes from our employee roster, but we have addressed the issue with the federal government and we now have the situation practically under control. But like I said before, to be honest, our clinic does face the same kind of financial challenges as other institutions. Look at what happened with St. Raphael’s hospital. The same thing happens with the pensions. We had to freeze the employee contribution, which we could also call “discretionary contribution.” It is only a suspension, and we hope to reinstate the contribution as soon as we are in better economic health.
INTERVIEWER: Is it true that the clinic owes $300,000 to First Niagara Bank?
CLARK: We do have a loan with them, but I’m not sure of the exact quantity. You can probably find a lot of information about that, because it is in the public domain. We took out a loan several years ago with First Niagara, which allowed us to buy some property and make some repairs. Fundamentally, it’s a regular mortgage. With all that, First Niagara has been very kind to us, and we are slowly paying the mortgage. It’s part of our expenditures.
INTERVIEWER: It is said that the federal government gave you a million dollars to open a dental clinic. What happened to that project?
CLARK: In that regard I can tell you that we are waiting for a consultant to help us develop a business plan. The federal government gave us capital funds, which is to say, money to renovate the building. The board and I feel uncomfortable renovating a place without a business plan to make sure that we are capable of operating something that will cost the center more money. We are in the process of developing that business plan, and hope that we’ll soon be capable to offer dental services. And all of this is confusing, because the federal government gives capital funds, but no operating money. That’s why we want to be sure that everything will be in its place before we move forward. That way, we’ll be able to open a dental clinic in some 18 to 24 months.
INTERVIEWER: And what happened with Matt Kerner, the financial director of your institution?
CLARK: He quit. Basically, his departure was due to a mutual decision, because he felt a little overwhelmed by the things we have to do here. He didn’t have much experience in some areas. That’s why he decided to leave. Anyway, I do want to be honest with you and admit that we face financial challenges, but we are moving ahead with them. That’s why I feel good about things. Besides, the Congress’ decision to support President Obama’s health reform will help us even more.
INTERVIEWER: And is Mayor John DeStefano aware of the clinic’s financial challenges?
CLARK: We would like to be sure that the mayor knows. And more than that, we have great support from State Rep. Juan Candelaria and from many other public figures—same thing with banks and businesses. This has allowed us to develop ideas to move forward. It allowed us to bring a financial consultant, who has been analyzing what is happening to us. That was one of the areas where our former financial director did not have the necessary skills. That’s the reason why our committee brought in a consultant, who is helping us to analyze matters such as what is called a “cost-center,” which is to say, how much do different services cost and how do they fit in our mission. The hardest part, Hernando, has been that since the very moment when we opened the clinic—40 years ago—we made a commitment to serve the neediest of Fair Haven’s residents, but at the same time, we’ve been doing that in concordance with the financing that we receive. And that has been the real challenge.
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FAIR HAVEN CLINIC ROCKS!
I started going there in the early 80’s. Both my kids were assisted into the world with midwifes from here. This clinic has seen me through some major illness. People ask me why do you still go to a clinic when you have regular insurance. WHY? Let me tell you why…because when I call at night I actually get a call right back. When I was having medical issues, I got that I care call to check up on how I was (not just medically but emotionally) When I kept skipping my GYN appointment, one was made for me right then and there (no excuses) beast exam…really drop the ball on those…but not a fair haven.
THEY MAKE SURE YOU stay healthy! They are a one stop visit so you are not driving all over town. All my basic doc’s under one roof. The waiting at most times is far less than even regular doctors! They have a tie in with yale so that I can get some of the most amazing across the board care. And if god forbid I lose my insurance they do sliding scale.
Most that know me know how a rave about my doctors. This is and should be a national example of what clinic should be like!
Sorry could not help it :) had to share!!
“Discretionary contribution”? WOW!!!!
Most folks would it stealing the employee’s withholding or social security payments and no discretion is available legally.
May be a worthwhile medical service as says Cedar Hill, but apparently one of the money-handlers or management risks imprisonment
This is some shoddy reporting. The questions are absurd: “it is said” “people say” “is it true”—who is coming up with these questions?! Also, this interview was clearly conducted in English, then translated to Spanish, then translated back to English: why doesn’t the Independent just call Ms. Clark and ask her (journalistic) questions itself rather than doing a multi-level translation butchering?
@Walt—I am struggling to understand your point as it appears you may also have been translated from English to Spanish to English, but I think you are insinuating that an organization is required to make matching retirement contributions? Last time I checked, those are merely incentives, not requirements.
The more financially healthy our frontline health clinics are, the healthier we all are. I hope Fair Haven gets an infusion of money for doing the medical work that so much of our health care system relies upon.